It's that time of year again, when CBS Sports rolls out All-Division teams ahead of the NFL regular season.
CBS Sports' Jared Dubin recently tackled the NFC North, and seven Vikings made his division roster.
For offensive skill positions, Dalvin Cook was named the single running back, and Justin Jefferson joined Green Bay's Davante Adams and Chicago's Allen Robinson II in the receivers group. Dubin wrote the following of Cook:
Cook is the most well-rounded back in this division. He's stayed healthy in back-to-back seasons, totaling at least 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in each of them. He's an excellent pass-catcher and a big-play threat on nearly every tote of the rock, which is exactly what teams look for in their running backs these days.
Brian O'Neill was listed as one of two tackles, along with Green Bay's David Bakhtiari.
Dubin included a pair of Vikings teammates among the front seven of the defense, highlighting Danielle Hunter (joining Chicago's Khalil Mack) at edge rusher and linebacker Eric Kendricks, who joined Chicago's Roquan Smith.
Hunter had to sit out all of last season, but he's healthy now and still in his physical prime. When we last saw him, he was coming off back-to-back 14.5-sack seasons. He still hasn't even turned 27 yet.
Off-ball linebacker isn't the NFL's most valued position these days – unless you can find a high-level athlete capable of doing everything. That's what Smith is shaping up to be and largely what Kendricks already is, as well. He's always in the right position, he gets his hands on the ball, and he can make plays everywhere.
And in the defensive backfield, Dubin pointed to a trio of Vikings: safety Harrison Smith along with free agent cornerback additions Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland. The two other defensive backs named by Dubin were Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander and Packers safety Darnell Savage.
Breeland has been quite good for a while now … and veteran corners always seem to shine when playing for [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer, so we're betting on Peterson having a bounce-back year after an at-times-very-tough 2020 campaign.
Savage is an emerging star safety and got the nod over both his teammate Adrian Amos and the Bears Eddie Jackson – each of whom was more than deserving of a spot on this roster in [his] own right. Smith is still an elite do-it-all presence for the Vikings, making plays in and around the box, as well as down the field. He can do whatever Zimmer asks of him, which is often a whole lot. Special player.
ESPN tabs Peterson as Minnesota's 'bounce-back candidate' for 2021
Looking ahead at the 2021 season, ESPN collaborated with analytics site Pro Football Focus to name one "bounce-back candidate" for each of the 32 teams.
PFF and ESPN's Courtney Cronin named Patrick Peterson as the Vikings top bounce-back candidate this season, coming off 10 years – and eight Pro Bowls! – with the Cardinals.
In 2020, PFF gave Peterson a 55.2 overall grade.
The 31-year-old Peterson's age might explain part of his decline the last couple of years, but the system he was in at Arizona didn't help. At this stage in his career, Peterson isn't meant to play the rate of press-man coverage he did for the Cardinals in [Defensive Coordinator] Vance Joseph's scheme. He's now in a Minnesota system that won't task him with nearly the amount of press-man as before. He might no longer be the player he was in his prime, but this new scenery could help him get closer to the kind of player he was from 2015 through 2018, when he earned a coverage grade above 80.0 in three of four seasons.
Cronin said that Peterson has "set a goal for himself to play 16 years in the NFL, and now he gets a fresh start" in Minnesota. She wrote:
Athleticism tends to decrease with age, so expecting Peterson to play the same role he did during his prime in Arizona probably isn't realistic, but a change in responsibilities – much like [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer did to extend Terence Newman's career into his late 30s – will be a welcomed change. That could mean deploying more zone coverage so that Peterson can lean heavier on [his] mental skill set rather than the speed and quickness it takes to go toe-to-toe with elite wideouts in man-to-man. Either way, the perennial Pro Bowler believes he has plenty left in the tank to not only help develop Minnesota's young crop of corners but further his own career in this next chapter.